Written by Matthew Powell, an ambassador for the Foundation and former young person in care.
Despite the various challenges I have had to overcome throughout my journey, I think that overall life has been rather good to me. With regard to the measures of success I have heretofore achieved, I am grateful to those who have supported me along the way both economically and psychosocially, and who have consistently encouraged and aided me throughout my academic career toward the pursuance of my dreams.
And yet I am at the same time personally aware that the success and fulfillment I have experienced in life is not, unfortunately, the status quo experience for many CAS alumni.
My brother, for example, is a former Crown ward whose life represents a tragic theme of struggling to enjoy at least some semblance of happiness while weathering various crises associated with life before, during, and after foster care.
Beginning around his late teens my brother came to experience severe mental illness. Even back then, I realized that I needed to be my brother’s keeper and that I had a fraternal responsibility to be there for him in every positive and constructive way that I knew how. It was in realizing a meaning in life and reason for living that I ultimately began to consider the moral implications of the matter: suffering and adversity in my brother’s experiences would only continue to inhibit his life if the good people around him neglected to take humanitarian action in assisting him amidst his woeful situation. I realized that I ought to support and be an encouragement to my brother through his experiences with mental illness, helping him along his quest to secure meaning, identity, hope and well-being in life. Since coming to this realization that I am my brother’s keeper, I have striven to be a rock of meaning and a relational anchor in reality for him.
But encouraging my brother and seeking to aid him in creating meaning, hope and purpose in his life also had the unexpected effect of influencing me to pursue psychology and health studies as my second field of degree study. While pursuing my studies at York University, I have had the privilege of meeting certain professors and researchers in psychology whose ideas have influenced me in my own endeavours to write what will be my first book, which concerns the psychology of thriving.
I know that my unique experiences with my brother and serving as a keeper, friend, and encourager, have all worked to prepare me for these enriching opportunities in my academic career.
This process of being my brother’s keeper is not only limited to my family, for I have further seen that there are many more cases of former Crown wards who are in need of a mentor and someone to lean on for strength and act as a source of light, identity and hope for when times are bleak and rough. I have, therefore, become a volunteer in the lives of other former CAS alumni as well, most of whom (like my brother) experience struggle with mental illness. As I feel a sense of kinship and responsibility toward these former foster kids, I now strive to be for them what I am to my brother; a general source of light and hope in life as their confidante, mentor, and friend.